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Choosing a Monitor - Free Computer Tutorials

Posted by Jim Bernstein

When it comes to buying a new monitor for your computer there are many choices and many factors to consider before your purchase if you want to get the best monitor for your needs. It is very easy to just go buy a monitor and plug it in and go back to work but you should look at your options before making your purchase to get a monitor that will perform to your liking at a price you can afford.

Types of Monitors
There are basically 2 choices these days for monitor types. First is the good old CRT monitor or Cathode Ray Tube. You don't really see these for sale any more but can pick them up used pretty cheap.


A CRT monitor has an electron beam that moves back and forth across the back of the screen. Each time the beam makes a pass across the screen, it lights up phosphor dots on the inside of the glass tube, which illuminates the active portions of the screen. This is similar to a TV screen. CRT monitors tend to be bulky and heavy but usually have a nice clear picture. They are usually the cheapest type of monitor as well but can give off a lot of heat when on. You can get them with the normal curved screen or with a flat screen, which provides a better picture and less glare.

Next is the LCD monitor or Liquid Crystal Display. With an LCD monitor liquid crystals are activated by electric fields to produce the display image. Each crystal is like a shutter, which either allows light to pass through or blocks the light.


LCD monitors tend to be more expensive but are constantly dropping in price. They are preferred mainly because they take up much less desk space and give you more room to work. Some people think the picture is not as clear as a CRT monitor but for the most part they look really good. You need to be looking at it straight on to get the best picture.

There are also TFT-LCD monitors which stands for Thin Film Transistor. These monitors offer a higher level of resolution and sharpness. The only difference is a thin film transistor that is applied to the screen, which results in better control of pixels.

LED monitors are now starting to come out and offer a great picture and are even thinner than LCD monitors.

Video Quality
Another factor to consider when shopping for a monitor is what video quality you are looking for and what your computer’s video card can produce. You may have the best monitor in the world but if your video card can't provide the output then its not going to matter.

Resolution is the amount of pixels present on the screen or the number of pixels in an image. The more pixels there are, the higher the resolution. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image will be. Certain monitors support certain levels of resolution and your video card will support a certain resolution as well. Resolution is a number expressed in dots per inch (dpi) such as 1024 x 768.

Dot pitch refers to the distance between each pixel. The lower the dot pitch, the less distance between pixels and therefore the sharper the image.

Aspect ratio is the ratio of the width of the image to the height of the image. For monitors the current aspect ratio is 4:3. This is changing now that widescreen monitors are becoming more popular.

Response time is the time it takes for a pixel to turn on and off and is measured in milliseconds. Response time is an indication of how fast motion such as video will appear on the screen. The lower the number the better. Typical speeds are 5-8 ms.

Monitor Size
One of the most important decisions you will make is choosing the size of your monitor. Bigger, of course is always better except maybe for CRT monitors because it will take up your whole desk if you go too big!

Nowadays 17 inches is a minimum for new monitors with 19 inches and up becoming more standard. People tend to buy smaller LCD monitors because of the price. Keep in mind that a resolution such as 1024 x 768 on a 17 inch monitor will look better than on a 19 inch monitor. So the bigger the monitor, the higher resolution you must use to get the best picture. Higher resolutions make the items on your screen smaller but you can fit more on the screen at the same time. So its best to get a bigger monitor so you can have a high resolution for clarity and still be able to see what youare working on.

Most companies have switched to widescreen monitors, which have a different aspect ratio from the standard 4:3. These are better for watching widescreen DVD movies and some people like having the extra width to work with.

Analog vs. Digital Inputs
Most of the higher quality LCD monitors will come with an analog and digital input. The standard VGA input is analog where the newer DVI (Digital Visual Interface) is a true digital input and eliminates the conversion to analog.

All computers and all monitors should have the standard VGA connections on both ends. To use DVI you will need the connections on the video card on your computer and your monitor. You will also need a DVI cable to make the connection. There is more than one type of DVI cable so make sure you get the correct type. You can also get HDMI connections on monitors.

The cost of monitors is constantly dropping since there are always bigger and better models coming out. As of now you can get a 19 inch LCD monitor for under $200 depending on the brand and features. There are even several nice 22 inch LCD monitors in the low $200s. CRT monitors are much cheaper.

Just remember if you can afford to go bigger and better then you should because the monitor is what you will be staring at for hours at a time so you should do what is best for your eyes.

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